By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Three North Laurel pitchers combined to hold Ashland American hitless as they opened the Little League 9-10 State Tournament with an 8-3 win.
“I was confident we would come ready to play because we looked so confident during the district,” North Laurel coach Jon Sizemore said. “We’ve got a good group of girls and if one don’t show up another one will.”
Daria Casey, Maddie Dagley, and Taylor Jones each pitched two innings with a combined 12 strikeouts as just one Ashland batter was able to put a ball in play.
“We did good in the pitching. We are deep. We didn’t waste none of our pitchers,” Sizemore said. “I would like to string better hitting together. We’ve got a lineup that can put up nine or 10 runs in an inning. They are all capable of hitting,” Sizemore said.
North Laurel had only five hits, but did take advantage early of five Ashland errors and seven walks. Kambrie Collier reached on an error to open the second inning and scored on a wild pitch. Maylee Philpot also reached on an error and scored on a delayed steal for a 2-0 lead.
“I think (hitting) is one thing we can do a little better. As far as a team running bases, playing defense I can’t complain,” Sizemore said.
North Laurel added three more runs in the third inning and also recorded its first hit. After a walk to Ashlynn Tyree, Casey stroked the first pitch to left field for a single. Taylor Jones reached on an error that allowed Tyree to score. Two more runs scored when Philpot singled with two strikes and two outs.
North Laurel made it 6-0 in the fifth inning. Taylor Jones singled to centerfield and scored when she was caught in a rundown.
North Laurel left the bases loaded in the fifth inning and it looked like it could be costly when Ashland finally put together a rally. Four walks and a hit batter led to two Ashland runs, but they also had the bases loaded when the inning ended.
North Laurel would get those runs back in the sixth inning. Tia Gambrel led off with a bunt single and didn’t stop running until she reached third base. She would score on a wild pitch. Casey burned the left fielder for a long double. Pinch runner Emily Sizemore scored the final North Laurel run on a groundout by Collier.
Ashland pushed across one run in the sixth with walks again hurting North Laurel. North Laurel finished the night with 12 walks as Ashland left eight runners stranded.
North Laurel was scheduled to play its second round game Tuesday night against Morgan County. Sizemore said he is confident his team can make a good showing this week.
“ Winning is what it’s all about, but we have to take it one game at a time,” Sizemore said.